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CARTER, Elliott  (1908-    )

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Carter, Elliott (Cook, Jr.), outstanding American composer; b. N.Y., Dec. 11,1908. After graduating from the Horace Mann High School in 1926, Carter entered Harvard Univ., majoring in literature and languages; at the same time studied piano at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass. In 1930 he devoted himself exclusively to music, taking up harmony and counterpoint with Walter Piston, and orchestration with Edward Burlingame Hill; also attended in 1932 a course given at Harvard Univ. by Gustav Holst. He obtained his M.A. in 1932, and then went to Paris, where he studied with Nadia Houlanger at the Ecole Normale de Musique, receiving there ahcencedecontrepoint; in the interim he learned mathematics, Latin, and Greek. In 1935 he returned to America; was music director of the Ballet Caravan (1937—39); gave courses in music and also in mathematics, physics, and classical Greek at St. Johns College in Annapolis, Md. (1939—41); then taught at the Peabody Cons. in Baltimore (1946—48). He was appointed to the faculty of Columbia Univ. (1948—50) and also taught atYale Univ. from 1958 to 1962. In 1962 he was the American delegate at the East-West Encounter in Tokyo; in 1963 was composer-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome, and in 1964 held a similar post in West Berlin. In 1967—68 he was a professor-at-large at Cornell Univ. He held Guggenheim fellowships in 1945 and 1950, and the American Prix de Rome in 1953. In 1965 he received the Creative Arts Award from Brandeis Univ. In 1953 he received 1st prize in the Concours International de Composition pour Quatuor a Cordes in Liege for his 1st String Quartet; in 1960 he received the Pulitzer Prize for his 2nd String Quartet, which also received the N.Y. Music Critics Circle Award and was further elected as the most important work of the year by the International Rostrum of Composers. He again won the Pulitzer, for his 3rd String Quartet, in 1973. In 1985 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Reagan. His reputation as one of the most important American composers grew with every new work he produced; Stravinsky was quoted as saying that Carter’s Double Concerto was the 1st true American masterpiece. The evolution of Carter’s style of composition is marked by his constant preoccupation with taxonomic considerations. His early works are set in a neo-Classical style. He later absorbed the Schoenbergian method of composition with 12 tones; finally he developed a system of serial organization in which all parameters, including intervals, metric divisions, rhythm, counterpoint, harmony, and instrumental timbres, become parts of the total conception of each individual work. In this connection he introduced the term “metric modulation,” in which secondary rhythms in a polyrhythmic section assume dominance expressed in constantly changing meters, often in such unusual time signatures as 10/16, 21/8, etc. Furthermore, he assigns to each participating instrument in a polyphonic work a special interval, a distinctive rhythmic figure, and a selective register, so that the individuality of each part is clearly outlined, a distribution which is often reinforced by placing the players at a specified distance from one another.
Works: Tom and Lily, comic opera in 1 act (1934); Flute Sonata (1934); Tarantella for Male Chorus and Orch. (1936); ballet, The Ball Room Guide (1937); The Bridge, oratorio(l937); Madrigal Book for Mixed Voices (1937); Concerto for English Horn (1937); ballet, Pocahontas (N.Y., May 24, 1939); Heart Not So Heavy as Mine for a cappella Chorus (1939); Suite for Quartet of Alto Saxophones (1939); The Defense of Corinth, after Rabelais, for Speaker, Men’s Chorus, and Piano, 4-hands (Cambridge, Mass., March 12, 1942); Adagio for Viola and Piano (1943); Sym. No. I (Rochester, N.Y., April 27, 1944); The Harmony of Morning for Female Chorus and Small Orch. (N.Y., Feb. 25, 1945); Canonic Suite for 4 Clarinets (1945); Warble for Lilac Time, after Walt Whitman, for Soprano and Instruments (Yaddo, Sept. 14, 1946); Piano Sonata (1946); The Minotaur, ballet (N.Y., March 26, 1947); Holiday Overture for Orch. (Baltimore, Jan. 7,1948); Woodwind Quintet (N.Y., Feb. 27, 1949); 8 pieces for 4 Timpani (1949; Nos. 3 and 6 composed and added in 1966); Cçllo Sonata (N.X., Feb. 27, 1950); String Quartet (1951); 8 Etudes and a Fantasy, for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, and Bassoon (N.Y., Oct. 28, 1952); Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello, and Harpsichord (N.Y., Nov. 19, 1953); Variations for Orch. (Louisville, ApriL21, .1956); 2nd String Quartet (1959); Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano with 2 Chamber Orchs. (N.Y., Sept. 6, 1961); Piano Concerto (Boston, Jan. 6,1967); Concerto for Orch. (N.Y. Phil., Feb. 5, 1970); String Quartet No. 3 (1971); Brass Quintet (1974); Duo for Violin and Piano (1974); A Mirror on Which to Dwell for Soprano and 9 Players, to a cycle of 6 poems by Elizabeth Bishop (N.Y., Feb. 24, 1976); A Symphony of 3 Orchestras (N.Y., Feb. 17, 1977); Syringe, cantata for Soprano and Small Ensemble (N.Y., Dec. 10, 1978); Night Fantasies for Piano (1980); In Sleep, in Thunder, song cycle for Tenor and 14 Players, to poems by Robert Lowell (1981); Triple Duo for Paired Instruments: Flute/Clarinet; Violin/Cello; Piano/Percussion (1982; London, April 23, 1983); Changes for Guitar Solo (1983); Penthode for 5 Instrumental Quartets (1984-85; London, July 26,1985); String Quartet No. 4 (1986); A Celebration of Some 100 x 150 Notes for Orch. (1987); Oboe Concerto (1987; Zurich, June 17,1988); Remembrance for Orch. (1988); Enchanted Preludes for Flute and Cello (1988); Violin Concerto (1990).